Just three weeks after suffering a rough loss to Derek Brunson, Kevin Holland steps up to face Marvin Vettori this Saturday (April 10, 2021) in the Octagon’s return to ABC. Earlier that evening, Sodiq Yusuff and Arnold Allen put their unbeaten Octagon records on the line against each other, Kyle Daukaus welcomes Aliaskhab Khizriev to the Octagon, and Nina Ansaroff makes her return opposite Mackenzie Dern.
Four more UFC Vegas 23 “Prelims” undercard bouts remain to be examined (check out the first batch here); let’s fix that, shall we?
155 lbs.: Jim Miller vs. Joe Solecki
Jim Miller (32-15) — who’d lost five of his previous six bouts — proved he still had something left in the tank with a 3-1 run that featured three submission finishes and two post-fight bonuses. Despite a hot start, he couldn’t quite make it 4-1, dropping a unanimous decision to Vinc Pichel in Aug. 2020.
He stands one inch shorter than Joe Solecki (10-2) at 5’8,” though he’ll have a half-inch reach advantage.
Solecki secured a spot in UFC by choking out James Wallace, setting up a one-sided debut victory over Matt Wiman five months later. He was even more dominant against Austin Hubbard his next time out, dispatching “Thud” via first-round rear-naked choke.
The victory marked his fifth by rear-naked choke and seventh by submission.
It’s become clear that Miller simply can’t push his customary pace for three rounds anymore. He needs an early finish to walk away with a victory, and unfortunately for him, Solecki’s too damn sharp on the ground for him to find it. Even if Miller’s experience and sneakily dangerous striking let him take an early lead, already a mighty tall ask, it won’t be long before fatigue swings things right back in Solecki’s favor.
While he’s probably still skilled enough to avoid getting tapped, Miller just doesn’t have the tools to put Solecki away before his gas tank empties. An initially even fight grows increasingly one-sided as Solecki holds his own on the feet and puts Miller through the wringer on the ground to win a wide decision.
Prediction: Solecki via unanimous decision
155 lbs.: Scott Holtzman vs. Mateusz Gamrot
Scott Holtzman (14-4) battled his way up the Lightweight ladder with a 5-1 run, including a “Fight of the Night” decision over Jim Miller in Feb. 2020. The fun wasn’t to last, as Beneil Dariush handed Holtzman his first-ever knockout loss six months later via spinning backfist.
“Hot Sauce” gives up an inch of height and more than two inches of reach to Gamrot.
Poland’s Mateusz Gamrot (17-1) established himself as one of Europe’s premier fighters with a dominant run in KSW, where “Gamer” enjoyed a lengthy reign as Lightweight champion and also claimed the Featherweight title with a decision over Kleber Koike Erbst. Despite the momentum, his UFC debut resulted in his first-ever professional defeat against Guram Kutateladze, though he did walk away with a “Fight of the Night” bonus.
His nine pro stoppages include five by (technical) knockout.
Though he’s improved leaps and bounds in that area since his early Octagon days, Holtzman remains vulnerable to the sort of takedown-heavy onslaught that is Gamrot’s bread and butter. To make matters worse for “Hot Sauce,” Gamrot can hold his own on the feet as well, further setting up his grinding takedown attack.
Holtzman just seems incapable of recreating Kutateladze’s dynamic sprawl-and-brawl effort, being a more straightforward boxer with seemingly lesser scrambling ability. If Gamrot’s confidence remains intact after his first taste of defeat and he isn’t daunted by Holtzman’s ostensible weight advantage, a 15-minute grind puts him in the UFC win column.
Prediction: Gamrot via unanimous decision
135 lbs.: Norma Dumont vs. Erin Blanchfield
Norma Dumont (5-1) started her UFC career at Featherweight where she fell victim to a Megan Anderson right hand in her promotional debut. Though she missed weight in her sophomore bout with Ashlee Evans-Smith, she nonetheless managed to punch her way to a comfortable decision.
She’ll enjoy a three-inch height advantage, though she possesses the shorter reach of the two.
Erin Blanchfield (6-1) — whose grappling credentials include victories in NAGA and the Eddie Bravo Invitational — won three straight in the cage before losing a questionable decision to future “Contender Series” graduate Tracy Cortez. She’s since bounced back with another three-win streak that includes a head kick knockout of Victoria Leonardo in Feb. 2020.
She steps in for Bea Malecki on less than two weeks’ notice.
Between the short notice and Dumont’s considerable weight advantage, there’s a lot working against Blanchfield here, but I can’t bring myself to pick against her. “Cold-Blooded” boasts a much more impressive strength of schedule than Dumont, whose best win came over the profoundly mediocre Evans-Smith. She’s also got a clear edge on the ground and has improved her standup to the point where she should be able to keep up if the takedown isn’t immediately there.
While Dumont’s size is a genuine issue, Blanchfield’s Brazilian jiu-jitsu pedigree and increasingly dangerous striking give her a serious shot at the upset. In the end, long stretches of top control win the day for the 21-year-old.
Prediction: Blanchfield via unanimous decision
155 lbs.: John Makdessi vs. Ignacio Bahamondes
John Makdessi (17-7) rebounded from a 2-4 skid with three consecutive victories, among them a “Fight of the Night” decision over Ross Pearson in Calgary. Win No. 4 proved beyond his grasp, however, thanks to a strong effort from hometown favorite Francisco Trinaldo in March 2020.
“The Bull” stands seven inches shorter than Bahamondes and gives up nearly eight inches of reach.
Ignacio Bahamondes (11-3) — the latest Chilean to join the world’s largest mixed martial arts (MMA) promotion — entered “Contender Series” having won six of his previous seven. He made it seven of eight in decisive fashion, smashing Edson Gomez with a front kick to secure a contract.
The victory marked his eighth by knockout as a professional.
On one hand, Bahamondes definitely still has some defensive lapses that a striking technician of Makdessi’s caliber could ruthlessly exploit. On the other, that’s a hell of a lot of height and reach to try and deal with, especially considering how adept Bahamondes is at punishing advancing foes with step-back counters. Bahamondes also appears to have more stopping power in his hands and feet, making it that much more difficult for Makdessi to make up the deficit in telling strikes during his brief windows of opportunity.
Though he’s unquestionably a live dog and the best striker Bahamondes has yet faced, there’s just way too little going Makdessi’s way for me to pick him against a much bigger, much younger, and much more active fighter like Bahamondes. In short, “La Jaula” racks up damage at a distance to claim a comfortable victory.
Prediction: Bahamondes via unanimous decision
There’s some genuinely top-notch matchmaking, quality prospects, and divisionally relevant match ups to be found. Not bad at all for a free event — see you Saturday, Maniacs!
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Vegas 23 fight card this weekend right here, starting with the ESPN / ESPN+ “Prelims” matches, which are scheduled to begin at 12 p.m. ET, then the remaining main card balance on ABC / ESPN+ at 3 p.m. ET.
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